Medical/Scientific Advisory Board

Dr. Sumaira Z. Aasi is Clinical Professor of Dermatology and Director of Mohs and Dermatologic Surgery at Stanford University. Prior to taking a faculty position at Stanford, Dr. Aasi was Associate Chief of the Section of Dermatologic Surgery and Cutaneous Oncology at Yale University, where she also helped train fellows in Mohs Micrographic Surgery. Dr. Aasi also completed a fellowship in advanced dermatologic surgery, cutaneous oncology, and Mohs Micrographic Surgery at Yale. She received her education and medical training at Northwestern University and the University of Chicago.

Dr. Aasi has contributed to more than 45 peer-reviewed publications and delivered more than 150 lectures on skin cancer and reconstruction at national and international meetings. She has chaired national conferences and served on the Board of Directors for the American College of Mohs Surgeons. Most recently, she has written a critical textbook on the pathology of skin cancers (Atlas of Practical Mohs Histopathology) used in Mohs fellowship training programs worldwide.

Esen K. Akpek, M.D., is recognized as a world-renowned leader in advanced corneal transplantation, stem cell transplantation, and ocular surface reconstruction procedures. She is the Bendann Professor of Ophthalmology and Rheumatology at the Wilmer Eye Institute, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Active in many professional organizations, Dr. Akpek’s appointments include serving as the director of the Ocular Surface Disease and Dry Eye Clinic at Wilmer and the associate director of the Jerome L. Greene Sjögren’s Center at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. She is the medical director for CorneaGen, member of the Clinical Trials Consortium-Sjogren’s Syndrome Foundation/SSF, member of the Medical & Scientific Advisory Board of the Tear Film and Ocular Surface Society (TFOS), and president of the Foster Ocular Immunology Society. Dr. Akpek is an associate editor with the journal Cornea and the American Journal of Ophthalmology Case Reports and serves on the editorial board of 6 other scientific journals. She also led KeraLink’s International Medical Advisory Board between 2014 to 2019.

Dr. Akpek has many contributions to the field of cornea and external diseases, including holding a patent in the field of keratoprosthesis devices, is involved in major dry eye initiatives including TFOS DEWS II in 2017 and the International Meibomian Gland Dysfunction Workshop in 2011, and has trained numerous ophthalmologists who have become leaders in the field. She also has led many clinical trials funded by industry as well as the Department of Defense and the National Eye Institute evaluating advanced treatments and diagnostic options for patients with dry eye disease. Dr. Akpek has lectured extensively nationally and abroad, is involved in the organization of multiple online and in-person educational activities including Sonoma Eye, International Ocular Inflammation Society, the Foster Ocular Inflammation Society, and Wilmer Dry Eye. She has published over 170 articles in peer-reviewed journals, many book chapters, editorials, and review articles.

Her previous appointments include serving as director of Wilmer’s Cornea and External Disease Fellowship, director of Wilmer’s Ophthalmology Clerkship, and member of the Board of Directors for the Cornea Society. She currently serves on the Preferred Practice Patterns Committee for the American Academy of Ophthalmology, where she received its Senior Honor Award. She also received numerous other awards including the Cora Verhagen Immunology Prize, and a scholarship from the Research to Prevent Blindness.

Dr. Armstrong is Professor of Surgery at the University of Southern California. Dr. Armstrong holds a Masters of Science in Tissue Repair and Wound Healing from the University of Wales College of Medicine and a PhD from the University of Manchester College of Medicine, where he was appointed Visiting Professor of Medicine. He is founder and co-Director of the Southwestern Academic Limb Salvage Alliance (SALSA).

Dr. Armstrong has produced more than 475 peer-reviewed research papers in dozens of scholarly medical journals as well as over 80 book chapters. He is co-Editor of the American Diabetes Association’s (ADA) Clinical Care of the Diabetic Foot, now in its third edition.

Armstrong was appointed Deputy Director of Arizona’s Center for Accelerated Biomedical Innovation (ACABI) and co-founder of its “augmented human” initiative, which places him at the nexus of the merger of consumer electronics, wearables and medical devices.

Dr. Armstrong was selected as one of the first six International Wound Care Ambassadors and is the recipient of numerous awards and degrees by universities and international medical organizations including the inaugural Georgetown Distinguished Award for Diabetic Limb Salvage. In 2008, he was the 25th and youngest-ever member elected into the Podiatric Medicine Hall of Fame. He was the first surgeon to be appointed University Distinguished Outreach Professor at the University of Arizona. He was the first podiatric surgeon to become a member of the Society of Vascular Surgery and the first US podiatric surgeon named fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons, Glasgow. He is the 2010 and youngest ever recipient of the ADA’s Roger Pecoraro Award, the highest award given in the field.

Dr. Armstrong is past Chair of Scientific Sessions for the ADA’s Foot Care Council, and a past member of the National Board of Directors of the American Diabetes Association as well as a former commissioner with the Illinois State Diabetes Commission. He sits on the Infectious Disease Society of America’s (IDSA) Diabetic Foot Infection Advisory Committee and is the US appointed delegate to the International Working Group on the Diabetic Foot (IWGDF). Dr. Armstrong is the founder and co-chair of the International Diabetic Foot Conference (DF-Con), the largest annual international symposium on the diabetic foot in the world.

Dr. Carl Atkinson is Associate Professor of Immunology and the Director of Transplant Translation Research, and Director of the Lee Patterson Allen Transplant Immunobiology Laboratory at the Medical University of South Carolina. He directs a team of clinicians, post doctorial scientists and students focused on understanding the mechanisms that contribute to transplanted organ injury and rejection. He holds sixteen U.S. and international patents, and his IP contributed to the foundation of two start-up companies, one of which he co-founded. He has published >90 manuscripts; received 24 peer-reviewed grants; serves as editor/reviewer for many journals; and mentored 25+ trainees. He is a member of numerous transplant and immunology societies, including the International transplant society and international society of heart lung transplantation. Dr. Atkinson’s educational background includes bachelors degrees in Biomedical Sciences and Cellular Pathology from the Kingston University and the University of the West of England, a PhD in transplant immunology from the University of the West of England, and postdoctoral training at University of Cambridge and the Medical University of South Carolina.

Joseph M. Davie, M.D., Ph.D. has held key management positions at Biogen (Vice President and then Senior Vice President of Research, 1993-2000) and G.D. Searle (Senior Vice President of Research 1987-1989; President of Research and Development 1987-1992; Corporate Senior Vice President of Science and Technology 1993). Prior to that, he was a professor at Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, first as Associate Professor of Pathology (1972-1975), then as Professor and Head of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology (1975-1987).  His training includes a Ph.D. from Indiana University (1966), an M.D. from Washington University (1968), internship and residency training in pathology from Barnes Hospital, St. Louis, and the National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, MD, and post-doctoral training at Washington University and the National Institutes of Health.  He has served on a variety of advisory panels and councils and was elected to the Institute of Medicine in 1987.  He currently serves on the boards of several companies.

Professor Robert Gourdie co-founded FirstString Research Inc with Dr Ghatnekar in 2005. Gourdie is Director of the Center for Heart and Regenerative Medicine (CHARM) at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute (VTCRI). His VTCRI Center is made up of four independent research teams, numbering some 30 scientists working primarily in the cardiovascular sciences. Gourdie has been continuously funded by the NIH since 1997, including as Program Director of a $7m Program Project Grant. He has authored 150+ peer-reviewed publications (H index= 46) on heart development and function, wound healing and cancer. He holds more than a dozen issued patents, with another 50 patent applications pending. His research is on the connexins - proteins key to intercellular communication. This includes basic mechanisms of cardiac bio-electricity and translational research on drugs targeting connexin function in heart disease, wound healing and oncology. Gourdie received his PhD from the University of Canterbury (New Zealand) in 1990 and did post-doc training at University College London (United Kingdom) as a British Heart Foundation Fellow. Prior to joining Virginia Tech, Gourdie was Professor at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, SC (USA) from 1995 to 2012.

Dr. Hart brings over 30 years of cross-functional experience in the biotechnology field where he has focused on the development of human therapeutics and medical devices. Throughout his career, much of this effort has been on the development of products to stimulate tissue repair/regeneration, including both acute and chronic indications. His background has spanned a broad array of areas across the healthcare/biotechnology space including preclinical research, clinical development, process development, manufacturing, regulatory affairs, business development, intellectual property, corporate communications and investor relations. Most recently, Dr. Hart was Vice President of Research for the Regenerative Medicine Division at Shire Pharmaceuticals. From 2009 to 2011 he was Vice President and Chief Scientific Officer at Advanced BioHealing, Inc., a company focused on the development of cell-based therapies for the treatment of chronic wounds, which was acquired by Shire in 2011. From 2004 to 2008 he served as Vice President and Chief Scientific Officer at BioMimetic Therapeutics, a company focused on the development of protein/device combination products for the treatment of various musculoskeletal injuries, including both bone and soft tissues. Prior to joining BioMimetic he spent 21 years at ZymoGenetics, Inc., a biotechnology company focused on therapeutic proteins, where he held a variety of leadership positions. During his career Dr. Hart has authored over 60 scientific publications and holds over 35 US patents. Dr. Hart received his Ph.D. from the University of Washington, his M.S. from Oregon State University and his B.S. from the University of California at Davis.

Dr. Paul Lampe received a B.A. from Carleton College and a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Minnesota. Since 1995, he has been on the faculty of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington and the University of Washington, and is presently cohead of the Translational Research Program. Dr. Lampe has studied how gap junctions are regulated for over 30 years and has published over 115 articles in peer-reviewed journals.

The Lampe Laboratory at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, investigates the control of cell growth at the cell biological level to mechanistically connect gap junction regulation with wound repair responses in skin, hypoxic events in the heart and cell cycle, as well as the control of cell growth and how the relationship is disrupted during carcinogenesis. Gap junctions allow diffusion of small molecules (<1000 MW) between adjacent cells via matched cell-to-cell membrane channels. Vertebrate gap junctions are composed of proteins derived from the connexin gene family and the Laboratory's results indicate that gap junction formation and degradation are highly regulated via protein kinases at various stages of wound repair. Gap junctions are highly dynamic and are created and degraded within minutes to hours. The Lampe Laboratory data indicates kinases such as Akt, PKA, PKC, CK1, cdc2/cyclin B, MAPK and others, regulate specific steps of gap junction protein export, assembly, channel gating (opening and closing of the channels) and size and degradation. During the first 48 hours of wound repair, at least 4 kinases are sequentially activated to facilitate a coordinated cellular response via proliferation and migration. Paul Lampe's Laboratory has studied the functional consequences of these phosphorylation events in terms of the level of intercellular communication, proliferation, migration and interaction with other key regulatory proteins, and has concluded that gap junctions play key roles in initiating wound repair and migration, followed by their downregulation to permit cellular proliferation in normal skin. This work has been continuously funded by the National Institutes of Health for the last 18 years.

Robert S. Langer is the David H. Koch Institute Professor (there are 14 Institute Professors at MIT; being an Institute Professor is the highest honor that can be awarded to a faculty member).  Dr. Langer has written more than 1,175 articles.  He also has approximately 800 issued and pending patents worldwide.  Dr. Langer’s patents have been licensed or sublicensed to over 250 pharmaceutical, chemical, biotechnology and medical device companies.  He is the most cited engineer in history.

He served as a member of the United States Food and Drug Administration’s SCIENCE Board, the FDA’s highest advisory board, from 1995 — 2002 and as its Chairman from 1999-2002.

Dr. Langer has received over 220 major awards including the 2006 United States National Medal of Science; the Charles Stark Draper Prize, considered the equivalent of the Nobel Prize for engineers, the 2008 Millennium Prize, the world’s largest technology prize and the 2012 Priestley Medal, the highest award of the American Chemical Society.  He is the also the only engineer to receive the Gairdner Foundation International Award; 78 recipients of this award have subsequently received a Nobel Prize.  Among numerous other awards Langer has received are the Dickson Prize for Science (2002), Heinz Award for Technology, Economy and Employment (2003), the Harvey Prize (2003), the John Fritz Award (2003) (given previously to inventors such as Thomas Edison and Orville Wright), the General Motors Kettering Prize for Cancer Research (2004), the Dan David Prize in Materials Science (2005), the Albany Medical Center Prize in Medicine and Biomedical Research (2005), the largest prize in the U.S. for medical research, induction into the National Inventors Hall of Fame (2006), the Max Planck Research Award (2008), the Prince of Asturias Award for Technical and Scientific Research (2008) and the Warren Alpert Foundation Prize (2011).  In 1998, he received the Lemelson-MIT prize, the world’s largest prize for invention for being “one of history’s most prolific inventors in medicine.”  In 1989 Dr. Langer was elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, and in 1992 he was elected to both the National Academy of Engineering and to the National Academy of Sciences.  He is one of very few people ever elected to all three United States National Academies and the youngest in history (at age 43) to ever receive this distinction.

Forbes Magazine (1999) and Bio World (1990) have named Dr. Langer as one of the 25 most important individuals in biotechnology in the world.  Discover Magazine (2002) named him as one of the 20 most important people in this area.  Forbes Magazine (2002) selected Dr. Langer as one of the 15 innovators worldwide who will reinvent our future.  Time Magazine and CNN (2001) named Dr. Langer as one of the 100 most important people in America and one of the 18 top people in science or medicine in America (America’s Best).  Parade Magazine (2004) selected Dr. Langer as one of 6 “Heroes whose research may save your life.”  Dr. Langer has received honorary doctorates from Harvard University, the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, Yale University, the ETH (Switzerland), the Technion (Israel), the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Israel), the Universite Catholique de Louvain (Belgium), Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Willamette University, the University of Liverpool (England), Bates College, the University of Nottingham (England), Albany Medical College, Pennsylvania State University, Northwestern University, Uppsala University (Sweden) and the University of California – San Francisco Medal.  He received his Bachelor’s Degree from Cornell University in 1970 and his Sc.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1974, both in Chemical Engineering.

David J. Leffell, MD, a physician, researcher and writer is the David Paige Smith Professor of Dermatology and Surgery and chief of dermatologic surgery and cutaneous oncology at the Yale School of Medicine. For 15 years he was chief executive officer of the Yale Medical Group, one of the country’s largest academic medical group practices, providing specialty care in more than 120 medical areas. For almost a decade Dr. Leffell was also deputy dean for clinical affairs at Yale University School of Medicine responsible for relations with Yale New Haven Hospital, strategic development and clinical trials oversight.

Dr. Leffell serves as chair of the Advisory Board of Tullis Heath Investors where he is also a venture partner. Previously he was an advisory partner at MalinPLC. Dr. Leffell consults with a wide range of consumer and skin focused companies including Merck and Unilever, as well as early stage biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies. He serves on the advisory boards of Dermasensor, First String and on the board of Validus Pharmaceuticals.

Dr. Leffell’s clinical focus is the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of melanoma and nonmelanoma skin cancer and new diagnostic and therapeutic technologies in skin health.

He holds a patent for a laser device to measure skin aging and shares a patent for the discovery of the skin cancer gene, PTCH. He also invented a novel surgical therapy for treating vitiligo, a depigmenting condition of the skin.

Dr. Leffell is the author or co-author of more than 160 papers, several. He was an editor of the world’s leading textbook of dermatology, Fitzpatrick’s Dermatology in General Medicine (including Russian and Spanish editions) and author of Manual of Skin Surgery (English and Chinese editions). Dr. Leffell wrote a consumer oriented book, Total Skin: The Definitive Guide to Whole Skin Care for Life, published by Hyperion. It is considered the go-to reference for information about skin health. Dr. Leffell has held editorial positions with many peer-reviewed journals and is also the author of a contribution called “Longevity Strategies” which appears in The Enlightened Bracketologist: The Final Four of Everything, published in 2006.

Dr. Leffell, born and raised in Montreal received his BS, cum laude from Yale College. He graduated with MD, CM from McGill University Faculty of Medicine in Montreal. Board certified in medicine and dermatology, he completed residencies at Cornell Cooperating Hospitals (Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and North Shore Hospital) and Yale-New Haven Hospital. At Yale, he also completed a post-doctoral fellowship as a National Institutes of Health research fellow. Following his residencies, he completed a clinical fellowship in advanced dermatologic surgery at the University of Michigan before returning to Yale in 1988 to found a new program in skin cancer and melanoma. The program, which combines patient-centered clinical care with teaching and research, has trained over 140 residents and 24 fellows in advanced dermatologic surgery and skin oncology.

Dr. Leffell lives in New Haven and Norfolk, CT. He has served as president of Artspace in New Haven and Connecticut Public Television. He has been a trustee of the Hopkins School, New Haven since 2011.

Dr. Bärbel Rohrer is Professor of Ophthalmology and the SmartState Endowed Chair in Gene and Pharmaceutical Treatment of Retinal Degenerative Diseases at MUSC, a VA Research Scientist, and an academic and innovative leader in diseases of the retina. She holds eleven U.S. and international patents, with an additional 27 applications pending. Her IP contributed to the foundation for three start-up companies, one of which she co-founded. A major pharmaceutical company acquired one, the other two companies are continuing clinical development of her therapies. She has published >70 manuscripts; received 37 peer-reviewed grants; serves as editor/reviewer for many journals; and mentored 50+ trainees. She is a Foundation Fighting Blindness Scientific Advisory Board member and member of multiple professional societies, including the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology and the Society for Neuroscience.  Dr. Rohrer’s educational background includes a Neuroscience Diploma from the University of Tübingen, a Neuroscience PhD from the University of Calgary, and postdoctoral training at UCSF.

Since joining the Pharmaceutical Industry almost 20 years ago, Mike has held numerous Medical Affairs & Clinical Development positions both in Europe and the United States at Novartis Pharmaceuticals; Aventis Behring (now CSL Behring); Novo Nordisk and Shire. He is currently the Chief Medical Officer at Orexo US, Inc.

During his career, he has global experience in the area of wound healing clinical development having worked with Apligraf during his time at Novartis UK and most recently in the role of Vice President Clinical Development and Medical Affairs at Shire Regenerative Medicine where he was responsible for both Dermagraft development and medical support.

Prior to joining the Pharmaceutical Industry he earned his medical degree from The Royal London Hospital Medical School part of the University of London, practiced internal medicine and subsequently became a Member of the Royal College of Physicians.